Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, says he plans to run for Sen. Hugh Farley’s seat on his experience and record of fighting for constituents.
Tedisco, 65, officially announced his bid for the 49th Senate District on Thursday morning surrounded by Republican legislators and local leaders. Tedisco says he also has the backing of Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan along with Farley’s endorsement.
Tedisco says he has a 34-year record of fighting for his constituents, even if it went against leadership, like former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
“I started to bad-mouth and get in the face of Sheldon Silver and I’ll do it again against any leader because that’s what representative government is all about,” he said at the Hilton Garden Inn in Clifton Park.
Before he decided on running for the seat, Tedisco said he sat down with Flanagan, R-Smithtown, and received his backing despite Tedisco’s defiance.
“He has to earn my support as someone who respects upstate New York,” Tedisco said, adding that he would have voted for Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, as majority leader. “I don’t have to prove myself to him. I think he can be a great leader for upstate New York and he said he would try to prove that to me. He said ‘I’ll earn your vote.’ ”
Tedisco said he believes now is the time for ethics reform, noting the sentencing of Silver to 12 years in prison earlier this month and former Senate majority leader Dean Skelos for 5 years in prison on Thursday.
He said the two former leaders should not receive their pensions and that legislative leaders should have term limits.
On education, Tedisco said standardized tests should not be used to evaluate teachers or students and that school districts cannot be compared to each other because of wealth disparities.
“It’s great that we closed that gap and provided more foundation aid, but the governor is off-base,” he said. “Now we’re on the right path. But we have to be vigilant.”
Tedisco also said he believes the state’s gun control law, the NY SAFE Act, takes away people’s right to bear arms. He said gun safety is about putting people in jail who have guns illegally, use them illegally and hurt people illegally.
He said he would also continue fighting for the protection of animals. “I’m not going to back down from Buster’s Law,” he said, referring to the bill he spearheaded through the state Legislature that made animal cruelty a felony.
Tedisco also touted his sponsorship and passage of Proposition 2, a constitutional amendment to go digital at the state Capitol. He said someone in the Assembly chambers actually called a laptop a “Jimmy.”
Before the Assembly, Tedisco served as a special education teacher, guidance counselor and athletic director. He then became the youngest Schenectady City Council member at the age of 27 in 1977, later going on to the state Assembly.
Tedisco went to Bishop Gibbons High School, graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Union College and earned a graduate degree in special education from The College of Saint Rose.
Others in race
There are two other Republicans in the race for the second-largest Senate seat in the state — Christian Klueg and Nancy Nugent — who announced their candidacy ahead of Farley’s announcement last week that he is not seeking a 21st term.
At this time there is only one Democrat in the race — Schenectady’s deputy city clerk, Chad Putman.
All three candidates say even with Tedisco in the race, who appears to be the front-runner for the seat, they are not backing down.
The 49th Senate District includes parts of Saratoga and Schenectady counties along with Fulton, Hamilton and Herkimer counties.
Tedisco now represents the 112th Assembly District that includes parts of Saratoga and Schenectady counties.
Klueg, 35, who announced his candidacy last May, said he is running because he believes voters in the district want a change. Klueg has his own real estate firm, CMK & Associates, and lives in Northville with his wife and two children.
“I respected Senator Farley but I disagreed with a lot of positions he took,” he said. “Those same issues still exist. Jim has passed some good legislation, but he has also been there for 34 years. I believe the Republicans in the 49th and the state deserve better.”
Nugent, also of Northville, said she was surprised Farley decided not to run and that she looks forward to a competitive primary process. Nugent has her own law office and is a mother of five and also a grandmother.
Nugent, 66, said she believes Common Core should be repealed and the NY SAFE Act thrown out. She said her background is diverse and is in line with the diversity of the district.
“Tedisco has been an assemblyman for a long time,” she said. “I’m well versed in the Clifton Park and Ballston Spa areas and the Common Core issues that speak to the people there. There has been no voice for the people in the 49th District. I will bring a more proactive style.”
In a statement, Putman said the district deserves a “fresh start” and that he believes Tedisco has positioned himself to be the Republican in line to follow Farley. He noted that Tedisco voted against the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act.
“It’s fair to say that Assembly member Tedisco and I have starkly different positions on a variety of issues, from campaign finance to recognizing the benefits of diversity in New York,” he said. “As an openly gay, married man it will be my honor and privilege to challenge Tedisco, a social conservative, who has voted against marriage equality and basic human right protections for lesbian, gay and bisexual New Yorkers, time and time again.”
Farley’s son, Bob Farley, attended the event on Thursday on behalf of his father, who is traveling to Florida to bring his wife, Sharon, back home to Niskayuna. Farley, 83, said last week he decided not to run again because Sharon is dealing with several health issues.
“I could not be more proud of his service and his legacy,” Farley said of his father. “But [Tedisco] will continue that legacy and serve with great distinction. I could not be more proud, and more importantly, my dad could not be more proud.”
Republican state legislators who attended the event on Thursday included Sens. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, and Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, as well as Assembly members Pete Lopez, R-Schoharie, and Steve McLaughlin, R-Schaghticoke.
Tedisco has received endorsements from Republicans in Clifton Park and Schenectady County. He said the Saratoga County Republican Committee will vote on May 24 and that he had positive discussions with the Republican committees in Fulton, Hamilton and Herkimer counties.
Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.